IBM's Notes platform represents tons of ROI.
Jeremiah Benjamin | TrustRadius Reviewer
February 17, 2016

IBM's Notes platform represents tons of ROI.

Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Overall Satisfaction with IBM Notes

Our entire organization uses Notes, mainly for Mail but in most cases for other things as well.

Our organization has had, in the past, about 100 custom Notes databases (applications) in addition to Mail. Over half of them -- many originally from the late 1990's and early 2000's -- are still in use. Some have been replaced by 3rd party solutions (mainly HR type databases), and others have been re-written internally to be modernized for web & mobile, or just replaced by other practices such as project management. Notes developers can update existing applications as web-enabled, mobile-friendly "XPages" apps, but we have not chosen to do that.

Nearly every user in the organization uses multiple Notes applications daily in addition to their Mail. Notes applications are excellent at workflow, having replaced various approval systems (paper-based and otherwise) with full security and an audit trail.

About a third of the organization uses Notes mail, calendar and contacts on their mobile devices.

We additionally have a sidebar app for Sametime (chat, presence awareness, web meetings, audio / video conferencing, etc.) with Notes as a convenient, central hub for collaborating.
  • IBM Notes as a platform -- including the Domino server and administrative policies -- is relatively easy to manage, maintain, and secure once it is set up properly. This makes life easy for users; they just log into Notes and bam! they instantly have access to dozens of Notes applications.
  • Notes Mail is easy to extend to mobile devices via Traveler, a free add-on for Domino that lets just about any smartphone to sync mail, contacts and calendar data securely. Traveler can even be configured for HA (high availability).
  • The IBM Notes client for Windows & Mac maintains backwards compatibility with several (perhaps all) previous generations of Notes. This presents an amazing value proposition. Many of our custom Notes databases were written 15-20 years ago and are still in use -- often unmodified! -- today.
  • Custom Notes applications are relatively easy to develop, providing data storage, search and retrieval, and a solid server architecture for "no SQL" type use cases. For many uses, SQL databases are too costly and Notes is a great fit. We use Notes to produce and consume web services for interoperability with other systems both older and newer.
  • iNotes -- the web-based client -- is very similar to Notes and very easy to deploy to users. We use it internally to let users easily check Mail wherever they are.
  • Notes client upgrades are easily managed with a built-in SmartUpgrade feature. While not flawless, it automates updates even for users operating over very low bandwidth connections.
  • Virtually all Notes databases can be replicated locally for traveling users. Replication is "smart" and secure in that it only replicates data from a server that a user can use. E.g for a 20GB database a user might have a 1GB local replica. This is efficient and secure.
  • Notes security is quite good, giving us options for very strong encryption of data at rest as well as in transmission. Most of those options can be controlled and enforced from a centralized policy.
  • Notes' backwards compatibility sometimes gets in the way. Menus are cluttered with extraneous, outdated options and features that modern users will never use, and Preferences are often difficult to navigate for those coming from Gmail or Outlook. We have greatly simplified this via Policies, but users still find it daunting to go through all the options that are available.
  • The IBM Notes client for Windows & Mac is essentially the Eclipse Java development platform...so it is HUGE. Performance initially was very slow but IBM has done a good job of speeding things up. As IBM moves more toward cloud-delivered applications, this will not be as much of a problem.
  • Notes and Domino can be complex to manage for administrators who are more accustomed to ActiveDirectory, Group Policy, etc. Editing a notes.ini file to add a feature, or working with XML files by hand to create a SmartUpgrade kit can be daunting to those coming from more modern administrative roles.
  • Some users claim to "hate" Notes mail. While I have heard this less and less over the past 10 years, we have had 3rd party software offer plugins to Outlook and it's rare to see any for Notes.
  • The client update process should be automated more. I would like to see the Notes client update quietly and quickly more like an Adobe software update. If an update fails it should automatically try again without prompting the user over and over.
  • Notes multiple language spell checking is a downloaded add-on Java-based resource that has to be deployed in a convoluted way that is difficult for users to grasp. Therefore any foreign language spell check updates must be done individually per Notes client by IT, which is unfortunate. I would prefer to see that be a "live download" update option for users to get directly from IBM (don't make me download it and put it on my network).
  • ROI for us has been extreme. In the late 1990's we automated dozens and dozens of paper-based processes and created workflows for activities that had never been formalized before. Additionally all those forms with their comments, etc. have been captured in a central place to serve as audit trails.
  • Whenever we need faster access to data (mail or otherwise), it's quick and easy to deploy a new Domino server somewhere, setup replication of appropriate databases, and get the local Notes clients pointed to those resources. So that to me is positive ROI because it represents time savings based on user need.
  • Tech. Support would claim a negative ROI in terms of supporting the Notes client, Notes updates, peculiar Notes issues, and users who complain about Notes. That is certainly true to a point. The Notes client is a much more complex piece of software than, say, Outlook. But we have to remember that Notes deployments are not just for Mail but many, many applications as well. In the end I'd say we might have 1 or 2 user complaints per month, typically around Calendar issues more than anything else.
We've looked at Exchange a few times. However, for more costly licensing and about the same amount of administrative support required, Exchange only does mail, calendar and contacts.

We do all that with Notes already, plus dozens of custom applications, and for less costly licensing. For what we need, Notes provides far more value than Outlook / Exchange would.
IBM Notes is probably best-suited where a variety of software is being used today unsuccessfully or where paper-based workflows are still very common. Notes can very capably help an organization automate processes and improve efficiency but this is less likely without a developer on staff or by way of a consulting firm.

IBM Notes would probably not suit an organization that is already running quite well with other collaboration tools in place. I don't see any particular advantages for an organization that is, say, running Outlook and SharePoint, and in fact many of the users would view IBM Notes as a step backwards. The only advantage I can see in that scenario might be cost.

HCL Notes (formerly from IBM) Feature Ratings

Task Management
8
Gantt Charts
Not Rated
Scheduling
10
Workflow Automation
10
Mobile Access
9
Search
7
Visual planning tools
Not Rated
Chat
10
Notifications
8
Discussions
8
Internal knowledgebase
8
Integrates with GoToMeeting
5
Integrates with Outlook
5
Document collaboration
5
Access control
10
Advanced security features
10
Device sync
10